Tuesday, December 06, 2005

So, is Anonymous Your Real Name?

A client once came to me about a comment on his blog that he felt used offensive language. He wasn't sure if he should remove it or just let it stand, as it came from a reader and made a good point.

My advice was simple: "you are the Editor in Chief of your own blog. If you feel it's offensive, you can edit it." Of course, it's not that simple. Each corporate blogger should develop a code of ethics when starting on this endeavor. In this case he was able to edit the comment, but also email the author of the comment and let that person know it had happened and why.

As a corporate blogger you don't want to sanitize your blog and get rid of all the negative comments, but if you're a CEO and the blog is tied to your own company, you also don't want to be foolish either. This balance needs to be set and stated from the start, in an open and plain manner.

I thought about this when I read Mark Jurkowitz's blog today. In a post about the dismissal of Todd Gross as chief meteorologist of 7 News here in Boston (full disclosure: I worked with Todd in the 90s when I was a morning producer at 7 News) he noted how an anonymous poster put up some negative comments about Todd. Mark points out:

If I were writing a story about Gross and had spoken to the source making the accusations, I'd a) have to use my judgment about the source's credibility and motives and b) then convince my editors to go along with such an anonymous attack on Gross. But here in the blogosphere, it's just unvetted information that may actually be on the money or just plain mean-sprited. There's no way of knowing. And there's no easy solution.
This is similar to the argument I've made before about anonymous sources in traditional journalism. Without more information, we as readers cannot make our own decision. In this case Mark turned into a "reader" of his own blog.

In the comments area Mark was called on just that point by someone who actually identified himself:
And yet you (as author and editor of this blog) choose to let this anonymous slander stand instead of removing it as a responsible editor should.

That makes YOU responsible for the comment.
Mark responded by removing the comment, which was the right thing to do. But I'm happy he let us into his thought process.

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